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A Ukrainian church in Kentucky raises money for refugees through bake sale

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Over the weekend, a bake sale at a Ukrainian church in Kentucky raised more than $145,000 for Ukrainian refugees. WEKU's Stan Ingold attended the event with thousands of others in the town of Nicholasville.

STAN INGOLD, BYLINE: Hundreds of people had already started filling the lobby of the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church shortly after the doors opened to purchase baked goods and to sit down for lunch. Linda and Gary Fleck of Wilmore, Ky., were waiting patiently.

LINDA FLECK: We came to buy some baked goods and support the Ukrainians in the issues that are going on right now.

GARY FLECK: There are so many refugees who need help. And we're just trying to do what we can in order to help those people who've been displaced by the war.

INGOLD: As they stand in the long line of people waiting to get lunch, an announcement comes over the PA system.

VICTOR SELEPINA: Lunch is ready to be served. If you're ready for lunch, you can get in line.

INGOLD: That is Victor Selepina, organizer of this fundraiser. He says he was shocked by how many people showed up.

SELEPINA: Very surprised - as in, just overwhelmed with gratitude. Honestly, it's just been great to see people come together like that - the community just - and help out and do what they can. Absolutely. It's amazing.

INGOLD: They laid out a large spread of baked goods and food from around the world, including traditional Ukrainian food.

SELEPINA: Shish kebabs - we have Ukrainian borscht. We have salad. We have - what else we have? We have pilaf.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOD SIZZLING)

INGOLD: The pilaf Victor Selepina mentioned is known as plov in Ukraine. That is where Paul Kononets comes in. He's heading up the kitchens.

PAUL KONONETS: Plov - that's rice with meat cooked in the cast iron - a big pot on a real fire. This something that pretty much most of the Ukrainian families do at home.

INGOLD: Kononets, like many of the members of this church, has family back in Ukraine.

KONONETS: I have my cousins, my aunts and uncles there. They are on the western part of Ukraine, which is not struggling as much. But they have a lot of people who's actually coming from north and east right now. So they're actually opening up their homes, trying to get as many people as they can.

INGOLD: As for refugees, the Kentucky legislature is currently looking at a bill that would have the Bluegrass State offer aid to help relocate those fleeing the invasion in Ukraine. Selepina says this is something the congregation here has been ready for for a long time.

SELEPINA: We've had a prophecy, actually, years ago that - be prepared for refugees. It was a prophecy in our church. And people know that. Every single individual knows that. So we're definitely getting prepared.

INGOLD: As of Sunday afternoon, thousands of people came through the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church. And Selepina says they raised over $145,000 for the relief effort. And they sold out of everything. For NPR News, I'm Stan Ingold in Nicholasville, Ky.

(SOUNDBITE OF WES MONGOMERY'S "NICA'S DREAM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stan Ingold
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